• Comedian Tracey Ullman got her first job, helping out at a local bakery, when she was 14. Unfortunately, she didn’t last long at the job—whenever she had to put cream cakes into bags, she insisted on licking the excess icing off her fingers.
• As a youngster, comedian Richard Pryor used to perform in school talent shows. His talent for making people laugh made itself known early, and the school auditorium was packed with kids waiting for young Richard to rehearse.
• Comedian Beatrice Lillie once wore a $10,000 diamond ring. Child actor Brandon De Wilde looked at it and was properly impressed, saying, “Gosh, I bet that cost $100.”
• Jack Benny used to pretend that his car wouldn’t start without a kiss. Of course, after his little daughter gave him a kiss, the car started right up.
• Lou Costello of Abbott and Costello fame really got into Christmas, setting up an elaborate Christmas display each year with angels, music, reindeer, and many hundreds of Christmas lights. Comedian George Gobel lived across the street from Mr. Costello. Mr. Gobel did nothing for Christmas except to put up a sign that said, “See our display across the street.”
• Some stand-up comedians pay too much attention to what they wear. Comedian Jay Sankey met a comedian who tried to dress in a way that supported his on-stage character (an excellent idea), but who then asked Mr. Sankey what the audience would think of his shoes. Mr. Sankey replied, “If they notice your shoes, you aren’t funny.”
• Suzanne Rand of the improvisational team Monteith and Rand had a grandmother who bought her incredibly sexy underwear. One day she wore some of the underwear to bed, and when she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, she looked down and noticed that her crotch was glowing.
• Groucho Marx owned a photograph of a young Harpo Marx. In it, Harpo is wearing mittens and holding a gentleman’s leather glove in his hands. Why? According to Groucho, “Harpo heard early in life that a gentleman never appears in public without holding a glove.”
• When Carol Burnett was growing up, she lived with her grandmother in a small apartment—so small that young Carol hung her clothes in the shower. For years, whenever Carol put on her clothing, it was slightly damp.
• Beatrice Lillie once dressed in a long formal gown and gave a serious recitation in front of Ethel Barrymore—before lifting her skirt and roller-skating off the stage
• Vaudeville comedians often tried to steal laughs from each other. One day, when W.C. Fields was doing his famous pool game routine on stage, Ed Wynn sneaked under the table and began mugging to get laughs. Mr. Fields continued with his act and waited until Mr. Wynn stuck his head out from under the pool table, then swung the cue stick and hit Mr. Wynn hard. The audience thought it was part of the act and howled every time Mr. Wynn moaned. After this incident, Mr. Wynn stopped sneaking under Mr. Fields’ pool table.
• Early in Bob Newhart’s career, after he had become the hottest comedian in show business, he used to watch the comedians on The Ed Sullivan Show to size up the competition. Week after week, he watched the comedians and said, “Well, fella, you’re OK, but not socko. We know who’s still number one.” But after watching a young comedian named Bill Cosby on Ed Sullivan, Mr. Newhart said, “Good luck, kid. Take it and run with it awhile.”
• When comedian/singer Fanny Brice was given a contract by the great theatrical producer Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, she wore it out by constantly showing it to her family, friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Mr. Ziegfeld gave her a new copy of the contract, but when she wore that one out, too, he declined to give her any more written contracts. Ms. Brice kept on working for Mr. Ziegfeld for several years, but their contracts were all verbal, not written.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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